Deconstructing the coastal professional in Australia

Miss Naomi Edwards1 Kerrie Foxwell-Norton, Rob Hales

1Griffith University , Gold Coast, Australia 


Coastal management has arguably become a wicked problem and demands other ways to rethink complex environmental, social, cultural and political, economic, institutional and personal issues. A way to rethink the complex and dynamic space that coastal management has become is to understand the nexus of the coastal professional and institutions responsible for coastal management. There is a wealth of knowledge about coastal systems, institutions and policy, yet the coastal professional, as a professional product of historical themes and events, remains unknown. This paper critically presents another way of rethinking complex coastal management issues by constructing a deconstructive critical historical inquiry into the emergence of the coastal professional in Australia.

By taking a constructivism approach, this paper demonstrates how the disciplines of institutional theory and change, environmental sociology and sociology of professionals can connect societal pressures and political contexts for policy change to explain continuous conflicting frameworks, which the coastal professional is expected and conditioned to negotiate within their profession of coastal management. Alongside a critical discourse analysis into the history of coastal management with the coastal professional as a key theme, we found that there was a significant importance of the environmental movement in the development of responsible environmental citizenship, which continues to translate into the professionalism of coastal management, and the professional production of the coastal professional. For instance, from the legalisation of daylight swimming in the early twentieth century demanded clean water regulation, to the emergence of green politics and coastal care philosophies in the later part of the same century, saw Australia’s coast become a public and political space to demonstrate deliberative coastal democracy, which has notability translated into numerous coastal policy and management strategies. This intimate engagement with the discourses of the coastal professional and coastal management offers stimulus for a serious conversation to theoretically conceptualise the coastal professional to better understand their engagement, limits, negotiation and navigation of continuous conflicting frameworks and what this means for future directions in creating more robust coastal management.


Naomi Edwards is a disrupter of institutions. Her honest opinions have inspired thought provoking conversations on how to re-think ways we tackle wicked problems.

Having found herself being deeply caught inside the web of decision-making circles and institutional networks responsible for coastal and natural resource management, it’s of no surprise that she is currently researching a Phd about the nexus of the coastal professional and institutions responsible for coastal management at Griffith University. She is a leader for sustainability fellow from the United Nations University, and in 2016 was awarded as a National Young Landcare champion and ambassador for her commitment to social and environmental justice.

She is highly regarded for multiple award-winning coastal and natural resource management initiatives that engage the community in different ways. Her most recent transformational engagement adventure is Intrepid Landcare, a national organisation that connects and inspires young people to act and lead with Landcare.